Heating your home’s water can represent a large part of your utility costs. Tankless water heaters are popular alternatives to tanks when space is a concern and can be an efficient option to heat water. The question is, however, whether tankless water heaters are more economical than their tank counterparts. To answer this it’s time to look at exactly what tankless water heaters do and some of the advantages and disadvantages to the system.
Tankless Benefits and Disadvantages
Tankless water heaters run on gas and utilize high powered burners to quickly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger. While these gas tankless heaters are more efficient than gas powered storage tank models, they can often cost more than traditional tank water heaters. The primary advertised benefit of tankless water heaters is their ability to provide rapid hot water, but this is not always the case as tankless heaters often feed some cold water into the pipes to gauge the required temperature rise. There are also possibilities that the burner in tankless water heaters fail to ignite for small amounts of water.
While both storage tank water heaters and tankless have to push out any cold water in the pipes before hot water reaches the faucet, tankless water heaters do not always deliver instant hot water since it takes time to heat the water to the desired temperature. What’s more, since tankless, by definition, do not store hot water, you may lose hot water during a power outage as a result of the systems electric controls. Tankless water heaters can also cost double or more than storage tank water heaters. While there may be some efficiency benefits to tankless water heaters, the larger initial investment can easily offset any utility cost savings.
Maintenance and Long Term Use
In addition to a higher initial cost, tankless water heaters may require more maintenance than storage models. You will need electrical outlets for the electronics and fan in tankless heaters, upgraded gas pipes, and a good ventilation system. Because of these upgrades, installation costs can soar to over a thousand dollars for a tankless system. Ongoing maintenance issues often includes calcium buildup that decreases efficiency, restricts water flow, and can lead to damage in tankless models.
Having the system serviced professionally once a year is highly recommended by many industry professionals. It can be a good idea to install a water softener to help increase the lifespan of the tankless water heater since hard water calcium deposits can deteriorate the system. In general, tankless water heaters can be efficient in heating and delivering water, but may not be worth the high initial purchase and installation price. Often, a traditional storage tank water heater with a good year warranty can be a better investment. Many of these models feature thick insulation, larger burners for fast delivery, and high quality corrosion resisting anodes. The $70 or $80 a year savings from tankless is often not compatible with the high retail price. For apartments and tight spaces, however, tankless may be the best option.